Understanding Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)

Understanding Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)


The Heart Center at Nationwide
Children’s is dedicated to the unique needs of its patients.
One of the conditions The Heart Center supports is called atrial septal defect
also known as ASD. The most common type of ASD is called a secundum atrial
septal defect. A secundum atrial septal defect is a hole in the wall between the
two upper chambers of the heart. Before birth, it is normal to have an opening
called the patent foramen ovale in this wall. This opening usually closes shortly
after birth. Sometimes the wall between the chambers doesn’t develop completely.
As a result an abnormal hole called an atrial septal defect is left in the
middle of the wall. This opening allows blood to move between the upper chambers
which increases blood flow to the lungs. If the hole is large enough the
increased blood flow leads to enlargement of the heart and can also
damage the blood vessels in the lungs. It can also lead to abnormal heart rhythm
due to injury to the heart muscle. Most children do not have symptoms but those
with a large defect can have slow growth and rarely a condition called congestive
heart failure. Treatments for ASD may include medications for symptoms but the
definitive treatment is closure by either cardiac catheterization or surgery.
If the hole is large or hasn’t closed by age two to five years a catheter or
surgical procedure may be necessary. During a catheter procedure a tube
called a catheter is inserted through a small incision in the child’s groin. From
there the catheter will be threaded through blood vessels to the child’s
heart. Next the doctor will place a device called an atrial septal occluder
across the defect to plug the hole. The device will stay in the heart and
prevent blood from crossing between the upper chambers. Then the catheter will be
removed from the body. When the hole is too big or when there is no place to
attach the device, open-heart surgery is necessary to close the hole. To begin the
surgeon will make an incision in the chest. Once the heart is reached, the hole
will be closed with a patch. The incision will be closed and covered with sterile
dressings. Our Heart Center team at Nationwide Children’s is dedicated to
supporting your child. We are available to answer all of your questions at any
time at (614) 722-2530 and at Nationwidechildrens.org/heart